tv Weekends With Alex Witt MSNBC January 13, 2013 9:00am-11:00am PST
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witt." here are some of the first five stories trailing at this hour. tale of two countries right here in the u.s. cubans on the move. travel restrictions are changing. wonderful news for wonder bread lovers. the politics of some golden globe films. and the honor goes to -- new york. details on all those stories throughout the hour. but first, the battle is ratcheting up today over chuck hagel's nomination as defense secretary. here's former secretary of state colin powell on "meet the press." >> i think he gets confirmed. i think ultimately he's superbly qualified based on his overall record, based on his service to the country, based on how he feels about troops and veterans and families. i think he will do a great job as secretary of defense. and i think in his confirmation hearings all of these issues that you've raised, that others have raised, he'll be prepared to deal with. >> also new today, senator john mccain offering new insight into his concern about this
nomination. >> what is his view of america's role in the world? whether he really believes that the surge was the worst blunder since the vietnam war. that clearly is not -- that's not correct. i mean, in fact, it's bizarre. why would he oppose calling the iranian revolutionary guard a terrorist organization? these are legitimate questions that need to be asked. i honor his service. we are friends. but i have an obligation to the men and women who are now serving in uniform. >> let's go now to nbc news white house correspondent peter alexander. so peter, with a good sunday to you, my friend. lots of reaction on the sunday talk shows on this hagel fight. has it reached a new level, and do you think this suggests it's going to be a bit tougher than the president envisioned to get him passed, get this nomination through? >> it's a good question. i had a conversation with a vrn administration official a short time ago, and he made it clear he was referring specifically to the gun control issue that they know, referring to that and others, that none of these
issues are going to be easy, but the president is certainly going to push ahead. as we speak right now, the president is pushing ahead with his sunday morning off to play basketball with some of his friends. but the defense he finds on the court is going to be a lot different than the opposition he's finding in congress right,000. as you noted, colin powell today speaking to david gregory referred to his -- referred to chuck hagel's distinguished public service record bricking up a point that the president has made very clear, sort of i guess telegraphing you could say what the argument would be for hagel, the fact that he was a vietnam vet, would be the first vet with a purple heart to be able to serve as the secretary of defense. it's very clear that the president feels strongly that these are the people that he wants serving on his behalf, specifically as it comes to chuck hagel, as he will represent the enlisted men and women who serve for the u.s. military. >> hmm. we have to talk debt ceiling, peter, because there's been this talk of minting that trillion-dollar coin. that is now off the table. so is the white house looking at another big fight here, and do you think if so it's on par with
what we saw at the fiscal cliff? >> i think in many ways this one could be a lot more significant. this could be a lot more difficult than the fiscal cliff. there was a deadline for that and that was an issue that a lot of people felt would be resolved ultimately in some form the way that it was. the debt ceiling crisis does sort of put these o'two sides, the republicans and democrats and the white house and congress head to head. once again right now, the republicans have insisted that the only way they will raise that debt ceiling past the 16.4 trillion mark where it is right now is if they get dollar for-dollar spending cuts that match that raise. the president has said, his press secretary has said, they will not negotiate on this issue. on the fiscal cliff issue they were willing to negotiate. there were obviously conversations behind the scenes. we know the leaders of congress came here to the white house. on the debt ceiling issue it is dramatically different. and on top of that you also have two other issues where these two sides will be going head to head. again, the issue of sequester. and obviously, the continuing resolution, basically the way
the government is paid for going forward. so we've got a busy couple months ahead of us. >> we do. hey, peter, we have to take note that we're going to see you in a little more dressed down, little more casual sigde of you at the bottom of the hour for office politics. for anyone who wants to see what goes on behind the scenes with you, tune in. are you nervous? >> i think i have a pretty good sense how this is going to go. i was more nervous when you came here-p but i know you took good care of me. it will be all right. >> it will. it will be interesting for folks who stick around. thanks, peter. >> thanks, alex. >> carol lee and associate politics editor for roll call david drucker. welcome to both of you. >> good morning. >> carol, i'll speak with you first. as the president says, he's not going to use his executive powers to raise the debt ceiling. treasury department on saturday said we're not going to be minting a trillion-dollar coin to help meet the government's spending obligations. so that means the debt ceiling is going to have to be raised by congress. how ugly is this fight going to get? >> it's going to -- i agree with peter. it's probably going to be worse than what we saw in 2011.
despite -- the white house has been very casual about this saying the president's not going to negotiate over the debt ceiling, he did that in 2011, he's not going to do that again, they've tried to rally business to their side, business leaders to their side so that they can box in republicans on this issue when it comes up, but the bottom line is there are a number of things that republicans want, particularly after they didn't get the kinds of spending cuts that they wanted out of the fiscal cliff deal at the end of the year, and they're going to use the debt ceiling as their leverage. and interesting -- one interesting thing to watch for in all this is how the republican leaders in congress handle this because there are -- the republican leaders don't want a huge fight over the debt ceiling. but the rank-and-file members do. so how they navigate that is going to have a huge impact on how this plays out, but it's going to be a tremendous fight. and the idea that the president's going to not get to negotiate over the debt ceiling, it's not going to happen. >> well, to that end, what carol's saying, david, there are some in the gop who have suggested a partial government shutdown may be needed to get the spending cuts that they
want. do you think that's where we're headed? >> well, i think it's very possible. if you look at how the fiscal cliff played out, as carol noted, republicans didn't get a number of things they were shooting for on their end. so politically, as well as substantively, the fiscal cliff, the debt ceiling i should say, then becomes their next avenue for being able to extract what they want out of the administration in terms of spending cuts and paring down the size and scope of government. if you look at this from a republican's point of view, not only do they want to get things substantively because of where they feel the country is at from a debt perspective and a spending perspective, politically there is no motivation, there's no reward for them simply backing down and unilaterally giving the president what he wants. therefore, i do expect this to be a very tough battle, even though the public may side with the president, on this it doesn't give -- republicans have nothing to gain by simply giving
him what he wants. and i think that they're preparing to go to the mat. and i think one of the reasons they've talked about a partial government shutdown is they're trying to in a sense prepare the country for what they're willing to do and to send a message to the president that they're not afraid of this even though it could be politically very treacherous. >> carol, i'm curious looking ahead to tuesday we have the remaining $50 billion in hurricane sandy relief. that's heading to the house floor. there are some fears, certainly legitimate ones, that the relief could be stalled by house republicans. what could be the holdup? >> well, again it comes down to spending. and there are some house republicans who want the disaster relief to be linked to either spending cuts or some reforms in the way the government hands out aid. i mean, typically these things aren't really fights. when something is considered an emergency and for disaster relief it's not used to get
spending cuts to offset it. so we're now in a situation where again republicans are wanting to make an issue of spending cuts and they're looking at this disaster relief as a potential place to do that. and they were somewhat embarrassed at the beginning of the year when speaker boehner sent them home and they didn't vote on this and again it's another instance where the republican party is a little divided on this because you had some -- particularly governor chris christie of new jersey but then also some house republicans in the new york area who were really adamant that this was not the right way to play this game and then eventually the house republicans had to come back and vote on that package. this is the second piece of that. and there are some republicans who are willing to, again, fight to try and get some spending cuts or reforms in the way aid is handed out. >> okay. to your point about look, we've got gone through this before in terms of dealing with disasters, there are the victims of superstorm sandy which held the rallies this weekend. they're pushing congress to pass this relief package. they point out it took ten days
for congress to pass aid for katrina victims. in fact, listen to this. >> here we stand, victims of sandy, 75 days later, still waiting. we are suffering. families are homeless. people are without jobs and struggling. >> where the heck is the red tape being cut? because i sure haven't seen it. my neighbors haven't seen it. my friends haven't seen it. we are still fighting. >> again, katrina, ten days it took to pass. so david, do you think this is a fight that some republicans want to have? given some in their own party, high-profile figures as well from new york and new jersey. they want this passed quickly. >> well, it's become an uncomfortable fight. one of the things that's changed over the past seven years or so is that we're in a much different position from a deficit and debt point of view. so there's much more resistance on the republican side than there used to be. to all of the little riders and pieces of pork that are loaded into these disaster relief bills. and that's some of the changes we've seen in terms of these things being held up.
an easy way to do this, and it's hard to get an agreement on this in the senate-s just to pass a clean disaster relief bill with nobody else's projects in there. having said that, republicans need to be careful. there are a number of republican house seats in new jersey and new york that could be threatened if republicans are perceived as holding up aid to sandy. and it's just not anywhere they really want to be when they're trying to focus on a debt ceiling fight or at least they should be. and i think from a political point of view and even substantively they have much bigger -- they have much bigger things to go after and try and accomplish than being perceived as callous when you have so many people in the northeast that don't have functional homes in the dead of winter. >> quickly changing topics, carol, your latest article you indicate chuck hagel accompanied then senator obama to iraq and afghanistan in july 2008. this was in part to bolster mr. obamas foreign policy kreds. and it happened when the president was running against senator mccain for president.
how much of senator mccain's concern about chuck hagel becoming defense secretary is on actual policy and how much might be lingering resentment, perhaps? >> well, it's a little bit of both, right? it's a classic washington. you know, there are certainly policy differences between the two, particularly on iraq, but you know, when senator hagel took then senator obama, went with him to iraq and afghanistan in the middle of the 2008 campaign, it really angered senator mccain. and you know, senator hagel didn't come out and explicitly endorse barack obama, but that trip was seen as an endorsement, as you'll recall. obama was trying to get some foreign policy credentials and build up that resume. mccain certainly had that. so it's a mixture for sure. >> david, do you think chuck hagel will be confirmed? >> i think he'll be confirmed. i think it will be rough and republicans will use it, as well as some democrats. but think ultimately he gets confirmed. >> okay. carol lee and david drucker, good to see you boeing. thanks so much. >> thank you.
>> west coast headlines are next. with a first in a reading, writing, and rapping. also politics and film. did torture scenes in "zero dark thirty" play a role in oscar nominations and should they have? the studio that made that film is now angry. look, if you have copd like me, you know it can be hard to breathe, and how that feels. copd includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema. spiriva helps control my copd symptoms by keeping my airways open for 24 hours. plus, it reduces copd flare-ups. spiriva is the only once-daily inhaled copd maintenance treatment that does both. spiriva handihaler tiotropium bromide inhalation powder
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several experts if we are safer against an intruder with a gun in our hands. the "daily courier in" prescott, arizona writes about barry goldwater's photographs, an exhibit that opened this weekend features photographs taken by the conservative senator. most of the photos are portraits of the navajo heem and pictures of the arizona landscape. the "los angeles times" has a story about how the university of arizona is the first in the country to offer a minor degree in hip-hop. the school added that concentration toyotas africana studies program. it's part of a trend to give serious academic study to the subject. that's kind of fun. well, not fun, the new and deadly violence in afghanistan, which has killed at least seven civilians. this in a blast inside a mosque following a night raid by nato and afghan troops. that violence comes amid fresh reaction to an accelerated timeline for u.s. troops to withdraw from the region. earlier on "meet the press" colin powell said the u.s. would need to keep some military personnel on the ground but would not speculate as to the numbers. but senator john mccain was more critical. >> there's always a tendency in
washington on these issues to say 2,000, 4,000, 10,000. that's not the right way to go about it. as a military planner you determine what it is that we have to do, how many advisers you need, what kind of military assistance group do you need, and then you determine what those numbers are. >> there's a series of decisions, all of which the president and the vice president have overruled our military leaders and their advice and counsel, which is the president's right to do. but each time i believe that it has ensured the risk of failure. >> nbc's amon mul hachlt din joins me in studio. uniquely. it's so nice to have you stateside. thanks for joining us. who's right here in terms of troop numbers? based on your practical assessment of what's going on there? >> well, that's a million-dollar question. i think it really begins with what the objectives are. when you hear the military assessment as we've heard from general allen and others, certainly it's several thousands
of soldiers that are needed. but it begins with the task, what is the military objective. i think that cuts to the core of what's taking place in the political establishment. perhaps incoming defense secretary hagel would address thish, of what is the overall objective of the united states presence in afghanistan in the years ahead, whether or not the afghan military is capable of achieving those objectives. and i think because it's unclear and it has remained uncleared for so many years, the fundamental answer to that remains very ambiguous. >> so the accelerated withdrawal that ber talking about, does this mean that things are better on the ground in afghanistan, it's at a time when we can pull out our troops without leaving them decimated, or is this all about the u.s. just wants to get out? >> well, i think there's no doubt there's war fatigue in the united states. there's no doubt this war has dragged out from the eyes of many people for far too long, has cost far too many lives -- >> 11 years. >> 11 years. more than 2,000 soldiers killed. billions of dollars spent. and the question is is the united states particularly safer, is afghanistan safer.
the short answer to that is yes, to some extent there are. but has the quality of life for afghan people gotten better? and many people make the argument it hasn't. even president hamid karzai has said to nbc news that the u.s. is to blame for some of the corruption and insecurity that exists in that country. that's very difficult for the u.s. to hear. but that is certainly the perspective that many in afghanistan and pakistan and in that region share about the u.s. footprint in that part of the world. >> but if the reason we are there in addition to helping stabilize that country is to secure our own security here, what happens if when we pull out afghanistan devolves into civil war? does that pose threats for us and our security? >> well, absolutely. what we've seen in the past is that when there's a country like afghanistan that is unstable, without a central government, where people can operate in the shadows and plan attacks, the united states is susceptible to that environment. it's not only here in the united states but u.s. interests around the world. and that's why the u.s. has to maintain or believes it has to maintain that presence there. there's no doubt that going forward many of these issues are going to come to the surface. afghanistan could find itself in
a very bloody civil war. iraq after the u.s. withdrawal has not gotten necessarily better. there's still violence. there are still attacks. but to some extent u.s. interests are a little more secured as a result of what happened there in the eyes of, you know, the united states officials that pursued that war. so again, you could make the argument that in afghanistan something similar could happen. but there's no doubt a great deal of uncertainty, great deal of questions remain. as to whether or not the central government in afghanistan can actually control the military and preserve the security, integrity of that country. and that remains to be seen. >> if only we could predict the future. all right, ayman, good to see you. >> thanks a lot. >> this week we learned that 2012 was the hottest year on record. we'll go inside the numbers and explain why this record is different from past years. but first, peter alexander takes us behind the scenes at the white house. what situation left him shaking? we're going to talk about that here on "weekends with alex witt." ♪ [ male announcer ] kids grow up in no time...
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let's go now to weather. and there's a mixed picture out there. today's temperatures may break record mize for a second straight day but western parts of the country are going to struggle to stay above freezing after reaching record lows. and sandwiched between it all some severe storms. we go to nbc meteorologist dylan dreier here with all the details. >> hi, alex. yesterday we broke 92 record high temperatures across the eastern half of the country. today we're going to do it again. not so much in the northeast. i mean, it will be a lot above average but that fog is hard to shake from new york city right up into boston, and it's windy. that always makes it feel a little cooler. the jackpot for all the really nice air is right down into the southeast. it's already in the 60s and 70s. we're most likely going to break some more records down across florida today. but look at where the cold air is. it is well down into the single digits. billings, montana with that wind chill it feels like 10 below right now. that is where that cold arctic air is sitting. and it's going to sit there for a while. and as you just mentioned, right in between, we do have this cold
front and riding along that front is mostly rain. however, we do still have some icing, some freezing rain falling right through st. louis and into southern illinois. that is going to create some very, very slick roadways because that freezing rain just makes a glaze on the roads that's very treacherous. but just to the east of that, from nashville right up into bowling green, we have torrential downpours, frequent cloud-to-ground lightning, nothing severe indicated right now, but we do have the potential of severe storms stretching from kentucky into tennessee right down into louisiana once again. an area that has already been hard hit by all of that rain. so today we are looking for highs today to top out well into the 70s and 80s down across the southeast. 62 degrees in washington, d.c. again, that fog in the northeast is going to have it feel a little chilly just like it did yesterday unless you're moving around, but the cold air is sitting back up into minneapolis and the dakotas and it is going to stay there for quite some time. alex? >> it's just too hot for january. it's kind of yucky. >> i love it.
>> do you? >> this is my kind of weather. but as a skier i'm sure you're not really loving it. >> thank you for that, dylan. let's go to our rundown of today's list of number ones. rio de janeiro tops the nrkts list of the 46 places to go in 2013. the "times" says rio's making a comeback as a cultural hub. they'll host the summer olympics in 2016. marseille and barcelona third. madrid does not make the list but it does the make the list of the most photogenic cities. fine ride. money magazine named the 2013 honda accord as the top car to watch. let's shift from one beauty now to another. >> miss new york! >> whoo-hoo. there she is, miss america. she's a girl from brooklyn. 23-year-old mallory hytes hagan winning the crown last night. and she wowed the crowd by tap-dancing to a little james brown.
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diarrhea, gas, bloating? yes! one phillips' colon health probiotic cap each day helps defend against these digestive issues... with three strains of good bacteria. [ phillips' lady ] live the regular life. phillips'. welcome back, everyone, to "weekends with alex witt." time for hanlz headlines at the half hour. former president george h.w. bush may soon be on his way home. nbc news has confirmed mr. bush could be discharged as early as this week. the 41st president was hospitalized back on november 23rd for bronc utis and stayed there while doctors monitored a lingering -- flu vaccinations. doctors and pharmacists are giving out the shots at clinics, drug stores, and hospitals.
the epidemic is widespread across 47 states. the cdc reports signs of improvement in a few southern states but doctors aren't sure how much worse this epidemic will get. in today's strategy talk cabinet conflict. in an interview today senator bob corker raised new questions about chuck hagel, president obama's nominee for secretary of defense. >> i think another thing, george, that's going to come up is just his overall temperament and is he suited to run a department or a big agency or a big entity like the pentagon. >> joining me now, former republican congressman tom davis and jonathan alter, msnbc political analyst and a bloomberg view columnist. welcome to you both. >> hey, alex. >> representative davis, i'll begin with you, sir. we just heard senator corker saying he has questions about chuck hagel's temperament and his ability to run the pentagon. now, i know you served on the hill about the same time with him. have you ever heard anything about that? >> well, look, i think beer going to be in a nomination
fight at this point. the real question is is he going to be able to come up with five republicans to -- do they want to filibuster it? i think right now we're sitting in some uncharted waters in terms of how the republicans in the senate are going to act. it's very clear that the senator has broken some relationships that he used to have with republican senators. so i had a great relationship with senator hagel. we were both from nebraska although my congressional district was virginia, knew him for years, but i didn't work with him day to day. he was over on the senate side. and there are clearly in ruptured relationships over there. whether it rises to the point of them going to their corners and opposing this thing i think remains to be seen. you also have some -- you also have some issues on the left, you have some of those comments on gay rights and the like. but -- >> oh, sure. >> dpsh i suspect with being the president's nominee they'll probably be able to patch that together. >> but that issue about his temperament, is that news to you? >> it's -- i never saw that in the time i worked with it.
>> okay. >> jonathan, what do you think? chuck hagel, does he get nominated? and if he does, is all the political capital that the president may have to use to get this done, is it worth it? >> absolutely worth it. this is an outrage what's going on now. it used to be until very recently unless there was a corruption issue or an issue of gross personal malfeasance, a character issue, the president was assumed to get the team that he wanted. there used to be before this hyperpartisan atmosphere you had to have real reasons to oppose, much less filibuster the president's choice, whoever the president was. so when the congressman says we're in uncharted territory, he's right. we're in a materiality where you have people who've never served in combat, who don't have any idea what it's like to actually be in a war, telling the country that they know better than a highly decorated vietnam veteran who also has a lot of experience
in national security affairs. this is a total partisan witch hunt. they are exaggerating things hagel has said in the past completely out of proportion. for instance, they say he used the word the jewish lobby. now, i'm jewish, alex. that's been used by hundreds of people in the public debate over the years. to depict him as an anti-semite, as some neoconservatives are doing, because he referred to the jewish lobby is absurd. and this really has to end. and the senate has to kind of realize that this is just not the way to proceed. ask him tough questions but not do this, not slander him. >> what we need to understand is we have basically turned into -- in terms of voting habits and reaction to members of congress a parliamentary issue. the founding fathers basically envisioned people coming to agreement and compromise. that's how the constitution came into being. now everything is partisan and
parliamentary. it's a difficult fit. and it's got to -- the president has got to sit down and try to resolve this. it works both sides. i don't know which side started this, but it seems to be getting worse every congress. >> jonathan, isn't the point of a cabinet pick to work with the president to help further his agenda? i mean, that's what it is. you may have differences with that but you may take up those differences while working with that person, that cabinet member on the hill or elsewhere. i mean, isn't that what a cabinet member is? >> yes. and we just had an election. and elections have consequences, alex. and i think the congressman is absolutely right that we are now drifting toward a parliamentary system. but we don't have a parliamentary system. we have a different system. and in our system the results of the election are meaningful. and the results of this election should suggest to democrats and republicans that the president,
unless there is some egregious problem, deserves to have his own choices in government. >> alex, let me just say, the senate has the responsibility to advise and consent. and given the filibuster rules you have to find five republicans, and he'll find out quickly who his friends are. people forget that this election, the republicans held the house. although institutionally they have a majority there, given voting rights and the way the districts are created, the president's got to come to grips with that and somehow both sides are going to find their way out of this. it's going to be just two years of being in the ring, exchanging punches. >> but ultimately, jonathan, your take on chuck hagel is getting through? it may be a bit of a bruising battle but do you have any concern that he won't? >> i think he will -- no, i do have some concern because of the hyperpartisan atmosphere but i think ultimately he will get through. the president will fight for him. he's a good man. he'd be the first enlisted man, former enlisted man -- >> vietnam. yep. >> -- to head the pentagon going back to when it was founded in the late '40s, when the department of defense was
created. he would be the first grunt to be in charge of the pentagon. that's a good thing for america. that's a good perspective to have in that job. >> and novel. >> for a lot of -- honestly, for a lot of what are called chicken hawks, the super hawks who never served who are now calling chuck hagel an appeaser, it's outrageous. >> all right, gentlemen. i'm going to switch gears here as the president announced on friday he is accelerating the withdrawal of troops from afghanistan. so when those troops leave, representative, that will be the second war started by a republican president and ended by president obama. does he deserve credit for that? >> well, i think history's going to judge if we left too soon, what were our goals in afghanistan, what happens to afghanistan once american troops have left. it's a very weighty decision on the part of any president because you're going to get judged ultimately in history by what are the ramifications of that. this was a bipartisan war, too. to put this on a republican president, i think we only had one dissenting vote in the house. this was the step-up, if you
will, to the war, the surge was this president's making. so i think ultimately he's going to be judged on what are the outcomes three, four years after we pull out. is karzai going to be able to preside or are we going to be seeing the taliban come back in and take over, which is what we had before this started? i don't really know how that plays out. i will just say, this having been to afghanistan, it's not a country in the normal sense. governmental reach is not across the country. it's very, very tribal. these boundaries were cobbled together, and there's not a huge afghan nationalism. it makes it a very difficult situation. >> mm-hmm. >> i was just going to say i think the congressman's right that the proof will be in the pudding down the road, but the country essentially made a decision that we did not want to have a long war. remember, four years ago there were a lot of people in both parties who said let's have a ten-year counterinsurgency commitment in afghanistan, and not just the president but really the american people said we don't really want that, we're
tired of war, and so we're going to see it wound down now. >> okay. jonathan alter and former republican congressman tom davis. guys, good to sigh both. thanks so much. in this week's office politics, nbc's peter alexander, the network's newest white house correspondent, i talked with peter about the pressure of reporting on the president with the best in the business watching you, not to mention all the west wing staffers. but we started with a behind-the-scenes look at nbc's white house press office such as it is. >> it's so crowded here. you know, people think about working at the white house as being one of the most glamorous, ultimate jobs, which it is. but maybe the glamorous part you can correct. >> i think this is what people would be most surprised, perhaps disappointed to see, is that it's not like we have some giant wing of ow own. we have like a teeny nook in the corner. but it's not terrible. nobody's complaining. four people going at once. you'll have chuck todd, kristen welker, myself, a producer will be here, and we'll be side by side by side. not to mention abc, cbs, fox, we're all slammed in the back corner next to one another.
so every so often you can hear the other network under deadline screaming something out -- >> and pick up something. you never know. >> usually on sents because they're -- one of the biggest things is when you do these special reports you stand up and here's all the correspondents from the network standing side by side by side all speaking at the same time when they give you the two-minute warning would've the president comes out. me, ed henry from fox, jaj garrett from cbs, john karl. the president's about to walk through that door and you're all trying to communicate literally three feet away from each other when you're blasting your broadcast voice -- >> you hear them, what they're saying -- >> it's terrible. i think, having reported in some awful places, this is the hardest thing i have done because you know that behind that door the president and his staff are listening to what you're saying. they're surely watching you because they've asked me about things i've said shortly thereafter. so i know they are.
and he walks in the door. it's just -- it is the biggest challenge i think in what we do, is to try to keep your head about you when you're doing that. >> well, that is a lot worse than having nick yell at me in my ear during the show. >> when you're away i've filled in. i know what nick sounds like and it can be trouble. >> ooh. >> and during the fiscal cliff-hanger, as it were, i'm here, i'm the guys, i'm doing "nightly news" and special reports with brian williams. you hear the music, you hear the chime, you stand up, you talk to brian. the president walks in. you sit down. and you're six feet away from the president of the united states. >> does anything go through your mind like i cannot screw this up or i'm a little nervous, i'm i've got to say this exactly right? >> i was not a little. i was a lot nervous. literally to the point that i was shaking a little, shivering. not that it was -- speaking of the president. but just like this is big stuff you're dealing with here. >> leader of the free world. >> so this is any cheat sheet, as it were. i just got one of these. apparently, this is what white house correspondents have done for years. >> oh so, that will help --
>> i usually wear one ifb earpiece. this is double fisting. double earring if you were. you put it behind you. but in both ears. that way you won't hear -- you only hear brian williams in here and your producer, don't hear these guys. i have not had it. it just arrived yesterday. so the next time you see me at one of those. >> talk about your wife. a newlywed you are because you were just married less than a year ago, so you're technically a newlywed. >> can i show you a little picture? >> of course. you can brag. allison. she's beautiful. >> she's a sweetie. i love her. we parallel parked our wedding between two of the primaries during the romney campaign. this is a picture on the back of us with -- >> this is funny. >> -- the obamas. the first time i'd ever met the president. and she said hey, mr. president,'s in my husband, he's the new white house correspondent for nbc. i was like baby, you don't need to -- it's okay, you don't need to do this. and we wrote "just met the neighbors." >> it's all good. next week my interview with nbc's kristen welker about her
experience out on the campaign trail following the president. her dream job as one of nbc's white house correspondents and the one trait she shares with a george clooney character. got to dune tune in for that. now number 2 on the first five web stories, ready to frachl starting tomorrow, most cubans will be able to leave the country with just a passport and no need for exit visas and letters of invitation. the travel restrictions were first imposed by the communist government back in 1961. with so much noise about health care... i tuned it all out. with unitedhealthcare, i get information that matters... my individual health profile. not random statistics. they even reward me for addressing my health risks. so i'm doing fine... but she's still going to give me a heart attack. we're more than 78,000 people looking out for more than 70 million americans. that's health in numbers. unitedhealthcare. because for every 2 pounds you lose through diet and exercise,
oh, i like it! [ garth ] sven's small business earns 2% cash back on every purchase, every day! woo-hoo!!! so that's ten security gators, right? put them on my spark card! why settle for less? testing hot tar... great businesses deserve great rewards! [ male announcer ] the spark business card from capital one. choose unlimited rewards with 2% cash back or double miles on every purchase, every day! what's in your wallet? here's your invoice. politics and film collide. there is fresh controversy behind "zero dark thirty," the film chronicling the manhunt for osama bin laden. the company behind the movie is blasting a member of the motion picture academy. david clenn wrote an op-ed saying the academy should reject the film for portraying "an easy tolerance of torture." and he goes on to a "i will not be voting for "zero dark thirty" in any academy awards category." sony pictures responded saying the move is an attempt to censor one of the great films of our time. well, this week the film was
nominated for five oscars including the best picture. it's up for three golden globes tonight. and joining me now chris witherspo witherspoon, entertainment editor for the grio.com. hey, chris. talk to me about what's at play overwhelm. what do you think is behind this? >> this film is number one in the country. it is winning in one regards. but the controversy behind the film started a long time ago. it's like politics meets hollywood. there's allegations that kathryn bigelow kind of got secret information from the obama administration when she was, you know, beginning the directorial process for the film. and there's these really intense torture scenes. there's sleep deprivation, waterboarding, some things that people, average viewers just might not be able to tolerate and consume and digest that well. so there's just a big controversy, a big buzz around it. and she was, you know, supposedly -- supposed to be nominated for best director for nim but was -- >> right. was she snubbed because of this? let's think about the kind of films she does. she did "hurt locker." thumbs up on that. she was hugely acclaimed for
that. she does have a golden globe nomination, right? >> yes. >> is that the problem here? politics at play? >> people vague it's politics at play. this film did get a lot of buzz critically. it's number one right now. but because of the controversy a lot of the older academy voters kind of shy away from films that kind of have this kind of controversy around them. people are saying she's snubbed for that very reason. >> do you think part of the controversy is because people are saying look at this film and the suggestion is that torture works? >> yeah. people are saying that this film endorses torture and that it does work and it was the reason why we were able to capture osama bin laden. so you know, it's kind of a political taboo. >> let's make a point. that's what people are saying. sony pictures for their part are saying absolutely not, this does not endorse torture nor make a suggestion -- >> and there's rallies right now outside of theaters, people are kind of boycotting the film for that very reason, for the torture scenes. >> let's switch gears, talk about another controversial nominee, that's "django unchained." it did get five nominations. that would include best picture. but not best directoror quentin tarantino. >> no. >> spike lee said he doesn't
want to see the movie because he says it's going to insult his ancestors. so all the snubs, outrage, what's behind all that? >> a lot of the outrage is because of the film kind of using this very intense subject of slavery but also bringing in comedy. you know, there's brutality and then comedy and a romance scene. so spike lee's whole, you know, boycott of the film was because he felt the film was just kind of not really dealing with slavery in a sensitive manner. however, the film has gotten critical acclaim. it's paced to be one of taranti tarantino's best grossing films at the box office. it was nominated for numerous golden globes. however, the big story with the oscars is tarantino's snub, not getting best director, and then leonardo dicaprio wasn't nominated for an actor role in had this film as well as jaimie foxx, samuel l. jackson, kerry washington. only christoph waltz will get an academy award nomination for this film. >> pull up a chair. we're going to watch the globes
tonight. >> cannot wait for that. >> good to sigh. come see us again. here's what we've been asking of all you today. do you think political views should affect oscar nominations? here are some of your tweets. ben says "it's the most ridiculous thing to even consider political views for personal achievement and art. what does one have to do with the other." james campbell writes "political views that'll affect the moral character of country are fair game. torture as an effective tool should not be endorsed." amanda heisey tweets, "no. if the act mi wants to make the oscars about art and execution it shouldn't matter. it would only discourage the industry." and april pardon responds, "no, they are not nominate ford their political views but rather for their talents." thanks for taking your time to share your thoughts with me today. remember you can always reach me at any time @alexwitt. now to number three on our first five web stories, hostess and its bankruptcy has generated a lot of buzz over the past few months but now a deal for wonder bread. hostess has agreed to sell six of its bread brands for $390 million to flowers foods. hostess has been trying to sell
off its assets under bankruptcy court oversight. it's expected to announce a buyer for its dessert cakes in the coming weekends. says the all-new nissan altima is a better car than camry. to argue would be rude. nissan altima. with moving-object detection. lease now. just $199 per month. visit choosenissan.com. road and track called sentra an economy car minus the look and feel of an economy car. wonder how civic and corolla look and feel about that. the all-new nissan sentra, with best-in-class mpg. lease for $169 per month. visit choosenissan.com.
it's official. 2012 was the hottest year on record for the continental u.s. the national oceanic and atmospheric administration announced that last year -- rather that last year easily beat the previous hottest year. that was 1998. it got the new record. this comes as a new federal report makes it official. climate change has already started to impact american people and the economy. well, joining me now is coral davenport, energy and environment correspondent for the national journal. good to see you again. just how hot was it last year? >> alex, the average annual temperature in the u.s. last year was 55.3 degrees. that was about -- that was a degree higher than the last previous record. it was 3.2 degrees higher than the average record -- than the average temperature for the 20th century. another way to think about the
temperatures that we saw last year, between 2011 and 2012 we had 16 months in a row that had higher than normal temperatures. the u.s. has never seen a stretch like that since the u.s. government began keeping temperature records in 1895. so that's another way to think about it. it was hot. >> there's definite perspective there. but why's it happening? >> at this point the evidence is pretty clear. it's happening for two reasons. one is cyclical weather patterns obviously contribute to temperature changes. and the other reason is the increase of fossil fuel emissions in the atmosphere. scientists say at this point the evidence is clear, compelling, and unequivocal that the increase of pollution from burning coal and oil is trapping heat in our atmosphere and continually leading to an increase in temperatures. >> okay. i'm going to have my director throw up a map here that shows
the states that broke records. the red ones are the ones that have the hottest on record. but look at that. every state was certainly above normal. is there a jeefrk or environmental reason why certain states broke records and others didn't? >> you know what, alex? again, when you look at this map and you see the trend, what's more significant is that you've got 19 states that broke records and that every state had a higher than average record. this more illustrates that this is a broad trend that we're seeing not just across the united states but across the world. it's a broad trend rather than, you know, small local changes. >> yeah. and we had not only the heat but these extreme weather events. i mean, look at what we had. we had hurricane sandy. massive droughts, wildfires. so is this the new normal? >> unfortunately, the data are showing that it probably is. the increase of carbon emissions, of fossil fuel pollution, has now warmed the atmosphere to the point that we're seeing reporting saying we
are going to see higher sea levels, increased flooding, stronger and more intense storms, stronger and more intense droughts. at this point a lot of these changes -- these results -- these weather changes as a result of changes in the atmosphere, a lot of this is unfortunately already kind of baked in. >> yeah. and coral, the report puts a correlation between that and the economy, its effect on it. how so? >> yeah, this is actually a separate report. we're seeing a lot of reports coming out that all fill in different pieces of this picture. at this point we're seeing impacts on the economy because the drought, for example, contributes to crop die -off an spikes in food prices. we're seeing increased costs to taxpayers and to insurance companies from the increase in flooding, from the increase
in -- you know, the increase in extreme weather. an interesting example is we saw the level of the mississippi river has gone down in part because of drought. this makes it difficult. you know, this adds difficulty for commerce, for moving goods. so we're starting to see these impacts sort of trickle through and have dollars and cents bottom line impacts on the economy, on taxpayers, on business. >> it's like it's a domino effect. you can see that happening. all right, coral davenport. thanks. good to see zblup good to see you. learning lessons from california's economy. what that state's budget plan could mean for the rest of the country. coming. you p yet many of us don't meet our daily protein needs? that's why there's boost® high protein nutritional drink. each delicious serving provides fifteen grams of protein to help maintain muscle and help meet expert recommended daily protein needs. plus it provides twenty-six essential vitamins and minerals and is gluten-free. help get the nutrition you need with a complete and balanced nutritional drink.
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get the blood tests. change your number. turn it up. androgel 1.62%. good day to all of you. welcome to "weekends with alex witt." it's just a bit past 1:00 a.m. in the east, 10:00 a.m. out west. we get to what's happening out there. new reaction today. vice president biden is preparing to hand over his gun safety recommendation to president obama later this week.
former secretary of state colin powell and senator joe manchin both weighing in today. >> i'm a gun owner. i'm a believer in the second amendment. i know the amendment rather thoroughly. i know the issue of the well-regulated militia. but at the same timeresponsibil constitution and bill of rights to protect our people and with respect to assault rifles i see no need for bush mav in the hands of an individual person who might be deranged. go out toy range and fire a bushmaster. >> you can't push law abiding gun owners away. they have to be at the table. and you need to find out what their preference of protecting that. and what i would say to all of my friends that are nra and gun owners, that there's no way that they're going to take your second amendment rights away. that won't happen. >> let's get right to nbc news white house correspondent peter alexander. with another good day to you, peter. the vice president's going to be reporting his findings to the president tuesday. do we have an idea what he might be recommending? >> well, he sort of telegraphed,
alex, some of the proposals or recommendations we should say that he will present to the president, then the president will then put them forward as proposals that he would want to be written up by congress. among them specifically the idea of universal background checks. ultimately trying to get rid of among other things the gun show loophole, meaning at gun shows the rules are different than if you buy at a gun store, you've got to get aw background check, if you go to a gun -- if you buy online or you go to a gun show you wouldn't have to do the same thing. that's one of the things they've really focused on. also trying to restrict those high-capacity magazines. sometimes they're referred to as clips. but really the magazines that can carry multiple rounds of ammunition that allows someone to fire off a lot of bullets in a very short period of time. and on top of that the one you that heard both colin powell and joe manchin speaking about was this idea, the assault weapons ban. it would be reinstated after expiring in 2004. there has been conversation over the course of this weekend even as far back as maybe thursday or friday that the white house was pulling back from this idea,
given the fact that it seemed like there was such stiff opposition in congress and really around the country to that. i reached out to a senior administration official within the last couple of hours and said they were in no way pulling back from the idea of an assault weapons ban. they know it will be tough, but it's still their plan to push ahead with that. >> how far do you think the white house is willing to take this fight, peter? >> i asked that very question, and they acknowledged those very thoughts. they said it's going to be hard and we have capital that we need to spend on this because there's so many lives at stake around this country, especially given what happened at newtown. alex, what was interesting is there's? information from what's called the freedom group and one of their i think financial statements that they put out back in september, that we've talked a lot about gun sales just soaring in recent weeks, of course, following newtown. the company, the freedom group, the owners of bushmaster, which is the same type of gun that was used in newtown, said that even before newtown they predicted sales would soar because of the continued economic realities, the tough economy, and also the re-election of this president.
there are a lot of people across america that have been concerned about a president obama crackdown on guns. and even before newtown they started buying them up in bulk. >> okay. peter alexander, thank you very much from the white house. joining me now, msnbc contributor and political editor for the grio, perry bacon jr. and reuters political reporter andy sullivan. all right, you guys. so with regard to the guns, first up to you, perry, do you think enough republicans are going to join with democrats that something's going to get done here? >> i don't think so. at least right now. you've only seen about two, two out of the 234 house republicans have said they're for some kind of gun control measures right now. so it's hard to see something passing in the house unless president obama can really change public opinion and really galvanize people to the point where house republicans feel like they have to do something. but right now hard to see, i know the white house is thinking about executive orders and that may be the easiest route because then you don't have to have congress approve anything. >> okay. andy, if something gets passed, is it going to have any teeth to it? >> well, i think like perry said
it will be very difficult to get certain provisions. especially an assault weapons ban. through the house. but i think president obama also has to be very careful not to alienate a lot of his senate democrats. a lot of these folks represent conservative gun-friendly states, places like north carolina, south dakota, and they could be put in a real tough spot if he goes out and campaigns around the country calling for an assault weapons ban. so you know, they may push for it but they may not get it but even if you don't get the assault weapons ban most killings aren't done with assault weapons. they're done with pistols. obviously, a handgun ban is off the table, but the background checks might be able to help with that. the notion of background checks and the expanded ammunition clips, limiting the size of those, is a lot more popular in opinion polls than an assault weapon ban. >> all right, you guys, we've got to talk about hurricane sandy, the relief rather because we know that coming up on tuesday the 15th the house is going to consider this $50 billion plus bill. the fact is that there are a lot
of protests out this weekend. folks that are affected by sandy are saying look how the government handled katrina and let's compare that to what's happening now with us. let's listen to some of these protesters. >> here we stand, victims of sandy, 75 days later, still waiting. we are suffering. families are homeless. people are without johns and struggling. >> where the heck is the red tape being cut? because i sure haven't seen it. my neighbors haven't seen it. my friends haven't seen it. we are still fighting. >> perry, how's this going to play out with the sandy relief bill? do you think the gop's going to block it? >> i do not. i think after chris christie made those very blistering remarks a couple weeks ago about what's taking so long, why is this happening, this money will go through. a lot of house republicans view this kind of funding as some kind of stimulus money and this money as being wasted but that's not a majority view at this point, in part because they realize this is politically untenable to have that view. >> andy, do you think the bill gets passed this week?
>> i'm not sure. the republican stance has been lately that they have to find offsetting cuts, that they can't worsen the deficit by just passing this stuff on top of it. so we'll see how they finesse that. >> okay. perry, let's take a listen to colin powell, who was on "meet the press," reflecting on the gop and race. >> there's also a dark -- a dark vein of intolerance in some parts of the party. what do i mean by that? what i mean by that is they still sort of look down on minorities. how can i evidence that? when i see a former governor say that the president is shucking and jiving, that's a racial-era slave term. when i see another former governor after the president's first debate where he didn't do very well says that the president was lazy. he didn't say he was slow, he was tired, he didn't do well. he said he was lazy. now, it may not mean anything to
most americans, but to those of us who are african-americans, the second word is shiftless and then there's a third word that goes along with it. birther. the whole birther movement. why do senior republican leaders tolerate this kind of discussion within the party? i think the party has to take a look at itself. >> so perry, this is really powerful stuff coming from colin powell. i mean, he's addressing this stuff straight on. w were you surprised by this? >> i was surprised with the bluntness of it. he all but accused some senior republican leaders about not caring about very racist comments. and so i was surprised by the bluntness of it. colin powell endorsed obama in '08 and at this point he's the republican -- i think now he's pretty close to the democratic party in terms of views. that said, some of the things he said are not surprising. i mean, republicans are very concerned right now about how much they are losing the black, hispanic, and even asian american vote, and they are taking steps and i think you will see them take more steps to
seem like more of a tolerant party. >> andy, you've got colin powell there calling out the republicans saying you've got to re-examine yourselves. do you think they're going to heed that call? >> yeah. i think republicans have been talking a lot about this themselves. i think they realized in this particular election cycle that they weren't going to win much of the black vote just because it was president obama on the ballot. but there's been an internal discussion they have to do more to appeal to hispanics and blacks and women and other people who the democratic party are sort of capturing at this point. >> all right, andy sullivan. perry bacon jr., always good to see you both. thanks, guys. >> thanks, alex. a dress rehearsal for the presidential inauguration ceremonies held this morning. a practice run of the military participation for the event. that includes the musical units the marching bands and the color guards. it also includes the inaugural parade along pennsylvania avenue and the swearing in ceremony with official party stand-ins. and a "new york times" report says president obama's inaugural committee is $10 million short of its $50 million
fund-raising goal. the inaugural officials call the figure outdated and aides to the president say they believe they're still on track to make their budget. be sure to watch msnbc for complete coverage of the inauguration beginning next sunday. i'll be reporting live from the nation's capital on the president's official swearing in this time next week. we're going to look ahead to the public swearing in ceremony on monday, that is the very next day, on the 21st. right now the white house estimates the federal government will add another $900 billion to the national debt this year. but california is suddenly seeing a budget surplus. yeah, a surplus. why can't washington do that? that's next here on "weekends with alex witt." ♪ maybe someday ♪ we'll live our lives out loud ♪ ♪ we'll be better off somehow ♪ someday
disappointing rare coin collectors everywhere, the u.s. treasury department has announced it is not going to mint a trillion-dollar platinum coin as part of a proposal to avoid the debt ceiling debate. the unorthodox idea to say the least, it was possible due to a legal loophole that allows the u.s. mint to create coins of any denomination. there was a time the state of california could have really used a trillion-dollar coin, but not this year. governor jerry brown delivered his state budget proposal on thursday, and for the first time in six years it does not have a deficit. joining me now is jared bernstein, former chief economist for vice president biden and a senior fellow at the center on budget and policy priorities and a good friend to us here. it's good to see you. >> good to see you, alex. thanks for inviting me. >> listen, your reaction to this budget. now, is it all good news? >> i think it's mostly good news. the way they got there is precisely the way i think a
functional political system would deliver a budget that kind of balances out like this. that is, they did it through some real spending cuts but also some tax increases. and that's the kind of balance that certainly the president has been seeking and that folks here in washington have of course been squabbling about. the tax increases were largely on folks at the very high end of the scale, but they also gave a bit of a bump up to their sales taxes, and the spending cuts were not trivial and they hit lots of programs that people care about, in health care, in welfare. and i think there's a debate to see how much those cuts stick as we go forward. but i like the look of the deal in terms of its balance. >> well, the way this all happened was through this prop 30 that passed. so is this the kind of thing that federal leaders, should they have agreed on reforms and cuts like this? >> i think they should. and i think what this deal really kind ever thematically gets to, i think it gets to the heart of the questions you're asking here, alex, is here you have a governor that goes to the
people of the state of california and says, i know you care a lot about education, i know you say you want us to have a flagship university system, a public school system that helps balance out some of the inequities in our economy, but you know, we're actually going to have to pay for it, these things don't come just because we want them. and i think one of the difficulties with having it on the federal stage when we talk about our budget is that people want a lot of things but they don't want to pay for them and politicians go forth and say oh, yeah, you can have a lot of things, don't worry about paying for them. jerry brown really kind of broke that mold by going to the folks, going to the people and saying how do we want our government to work? what do we want it to do? and if we want x we're going to have pay for x. >> but why is it different? i don't get why it's different, why it should be different because california is a state, you don't just look at it as being a state compared to the federal government because it's got a huge gdp. how is it that things will pass with the governor talking to the citizens and saying here's what we want to do? why can't that work in terms of
tactically on a federal level? >> well, it's a great question. and by the way, their gdp is about the size of canada's. their budget amounts to about 100 billion. so you're right, we're talking about numbers that are comparable to those of significant countries. i think the answer to your question has to do with a couple of things. first of all, the level of partisan rancor, while it's been very high and dysfunctional in california in the recent past, is nothing compared to what we've got going on here in washington. i mean, if you think about the fiscal cliff and the debt ceiling, in my view these aren't just, you know, kind of interesting things that we can debate on our television show. this is political malpractice. these are self-inflicted wounds on an economy that should be going forward. the idea that our leaders don't come forth and have the kind of conversation that jerry brown has had. and i think he's a gifted leader in that regard. in that sense this really does kind of point the way forward. >> now, you alluded to this in terms of looking down the road but the "sacramento bee" quoted one expert who said it is too
soon to draw any conclusions and that budget estimates, estimates are often wildly off. so is there truth to that? could this actually when playing out not look as good down the road? >> of course it could. and i read that quote, my first thought was that's a critique you could level at any budget at any state or any federal government or any country. basically, these budget agreements are agreements that a legislature makes at a point in time. next year's leng slach could come back and change that. i think the case of california you have to look at two things. one is that some of these revenues come from -- a non-trivial amount of theechblz v revenues come from the folks at the very high end of the income scale. if they stop going as well that's could be a constraint. and of course the spending cuts have to hold. we have a legislature there that's 2/3 democrat. they've already been making some noise about taking back some of those cuts. so it's definitely worth watching, but any budgetary accomplishment can be reversed by later legislators. >> okay. jared bernstein, thank you so much as always. >> thank you, alex.
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today marks one year since the "costa concordia" cruise ship crashed off the italian coast. survivors and relatives of the victims unveiling memorials and holding a mass honoring those who died. this as crews make a major step in the salvage efforts. nbc's michelle kosinski's on the scene there in giglio, italy. hello, michelle. >> reporter: hi, alex. it has been a difficult,
emotional day for the families. the sound of the church service echoed throughout this ancient town. we've heard a lot of people say how much this disaster still affects them, including the captain. and even now we're seeing new pictures coming out from that night. the morning cold. some of this beautiful island's most terrible memories are symbolically laid to rest. that is the boulder the "costa concordia" struck. there it is lodged in the hull. now returned to the sea. the 32 lives lot are emotion a. celebrated. evan rebello came to feel closer to his brother russell, a waiter on board who helped rescue passengers but was never found. >> what will you say to your brother while you're here? >> show up. that's what i send him a message. so when are you going to show up? that's it. so hopefully he hears me. >> reporter: now the italian coast guard has released more
images from that night. in infrared you see clusters of people clinging to the side all the way down to the water. a woman runs along the hull seeming panicked and slips. this person waves wildly for help. the coast guard approaches, stunned to see the ship on its side. they spot someone hanging on. passengers crowd a rope ladder down the edge. later, from beneath you see parts of the ship crumpled to ribbons. from above the lifeboats that wouldn't budge. honeymooners bengie and emily were in one of those, forcing them to get out, find a rope themselves, tie it to a deck, and rappel all the way down. where they waited for three hours, having no idea they were near shore. >> we said, just in case we don't make it out of this, i love you and good-bye. >> reporter: people are still struggling for peace after this, as is the captain, accused of manslaughter. >> i join my pain to that pain. even if there is a differences. i have the pain of the person
that was responsible over the whole ship, and i have never denied that. never. >> reporter: captain schettino is accused of abandoning ship. he's going through pretrial hearings right now while the cruise liner and its american parent carnival face lawsuits from some 700 passengers. the cruise industry, though, has improved safety procedures since this happened one year ago tonight. alex? >> incredible story. michelle kosinski, thank you. still ahead, half of the world's food is going to waste. could one of the reasons be as simple as expiration dates that are too strict? you're watching "weekends with alex witt." nurses are dealing with a wider range of issues. and there are ever-changing regulations. when you see these challenges, do you want to back away or take charge? with a degree in the field of healthcare or nursing from capella university, you'll have the knowledge to advance your career while making a difference in the lives of patients.
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approval in advance. >> it's usually been the rule, if the president's going to be in charge of the government we have to give him the people he wants to run it. but republicans seem to be against every single person that he has nominated. can you be for senator hagel? i mean, in some ways he was the chairman of your -- co-chair of your campaign in 2000. he would seem to be your kind of guy. a veteran. a guy who's been shot at -- >> he's a veteran. he's a friend. and by the way, in this process usually with previous presidents, both republican and democrat, when they're considering nominations they call in the other side and say -- the key members on the other party and say i'm thinking about nominating mr. x, what do you think about it? there's been none of that with this administration. >> the gop opposition to these cabinet nominations also comes amid some calls for filibuster reform to make it more difficult
for republicans to block confirmation votes. a new report out today says the u.s. is stepping up drone strikes in pakistan while preparing to withdraw troops from neighboring afghanistan. the flurry of strikes is pounding taliban targets and reports say thursday's attack was the seventh in just ten days. nbc news foreign correspondent ayman mo qulchlt ahedin is joining me in new york for a change. >> good to be here. >> can you correlate the increase in drone attacks to a withdrawal of basically the manpower, the troops on the ground? >> if you had to look at the numbers, the short answer is no. since president obama came into office there have been close to 300 strikes in various countries as a result of these drone strikes. so the indication is or the data suggests that in fact this was prior to any announcement or potential announcement of a u.s. withdrawal from afghanistan. so the u.s. has increased this type of operation. there's no doubt that with the reduction of troops in afghanistan the u.s. will resort to more and more either covert operations or more aerial strikes. but for the time being it
doesn't appear to be a shift in policy or change in policy because we've seen already over the past four years what the obama administration's been doing with these air strikes. >> aerial drone strikes aside, does the cia need to pull out at the same time as the military? because doesn't the military help back up many of their operations? >> without a doubt. but the cia already maintains such a strong presence across the region it's unlikely that it's going to reduce that. there's some aspect of the cia's presence that's involved with helping the military, perhaps gathering intelligence precisely for operations that involve troops, but also that's going to shift perhaps to providing intelligence for these types of drones. a lot of that relies on human intelligence on the ground and assets on the ground. it's unlikely that is going to be reduced if the u.s. still feels it needs to have that presence as they've indicated they will. >> does the cia operate in its own kind of bubble? are they going to be able to as effectively bring this human intelligence with less people on the ground? >> well, from a technological point of view, phone intercepts, satellite imagery, all of that
will probably stay if not increase because of the fact it will rely on it more. but there's no doubt the cia maintains a robust network of human intelligence on the ground in various parts of pakistan and afghanistan. but the cia provides the military and the military provides the cia with a lot of intelligence. they share that. but there's no doubt that the cia runs a lot of the networks or maintains a lot of the networks in these parts of the world that provide the operational intelligence that feeds into the military and sometimes not the other way around. >> a perspective how effective drones are as a weapon. >> you know, that's a very interesting question. from the americans' perspective, at least certainly from the obama administration's they'll argue it's effective. but a lot of people are raising questions from the ethics, the legality of it. it creates a sense of resentment where the strikes happen. international experts have expressed questions whether the united states can continue these air strikes in this environment especially with al qaeda being decimate with so many assessments. there's a raging debate outside the united states that i don't think most americans are aware about as to the legality and the
ethics of this time of attack and the toll that it's taking. it may have a short-term strategic objective but in the long run a lot of people are questioning whether or not it's going to breed more problems for the united states in the years ahead. >> ayman molyehedin, thank you. investors should be on the lookout for the beginning of the earnings seasons with banks and financial companies reporting their bottom line results. retail sale figures come out on tuesday as does the monthly report on wholesale prices followed by the consumer prices index on wednesday. then on thursday the census bureau reports on housing starts and building permits for the month of december. a new report says up to half of the food produced in the world is wasted. it is never consumed. that's the finding from the british institution of mechanical engineers. and joining me now is jopth bloom, author of "american wasteland: how americans throw away nearly half of its food and what we can do about it." jonathan, welcome to you. this is something we all should be interested in talking about
because let's look at what this report says, that the world creates 4.4 billion tons of food every year and yet only 30% to 50% of it is actually eaten. so where is it going? >> well, the vast majority of it is actually going to the landfill. but where it isn't going is to feed individuals and families. and so these days as many of us are trying to figure out how to put food on our family's plates, feed our families, to have this amount of our resources and food being squandered to me is just morally callous. >> morally callous. it seems criminal. i'll tell you. the waste here. how much is it from the producing end versus the consumer end? >> well, the funny thing is there isn't an all-encompassing study looking at where food waste is happening at all levels of the food chain. but from anecdotal evidence the majority of waste happens on the farm level where food never actually leaves the farm, and
then in our own homes, where consumers are not using about 1/4 of the food that we bring home. >> is that because westerners, they want -- they demand like eastically perfect food, you get a apple that as a little mark on it you don't want to 'that. or an overly strict expiration date mentality. are those things we can turn the tide on? >> oh, i believe we really can. and you're right. those are large factors on why we as consumers are wasting so much. appearance in our food often trumps taste. so if something isn't the right shape, size, or color or if, like you mentioned, it has a little bruise in it, then those food items will be cast aside somewhere throughout the food chain. and unfortunately, that definitely adds up. and with expiration dates those are not necessarily speaking to a food's safety but about its quality. so if folks at home are treating that as the drop dead date on
when food should be thrown out, then you're going to be throwing away a lot of good food. >> so what can we do about it? and is there a way to direct this wasted food to regions where people are starving? >> well, redistribution of food can get a little bit tricky when you talk about internationally, but let's look right here in the u.s. about 15% of americans are coming from food-insecure homes. so they're not quite sure where their next meal is coming from at any given point. so when we have this glut, this excess of food, particularly at the retail level, and restaurants as well, there are many food recovery organizations that do a nice job of going out there and capturing these edible but unsellable foods. but we as individuals have a role to play here, too. in our own homes, if we are aware, just simply being aware of how much food we're not using, then we're going to do a better job. but thinking about that earlier
sfat i menti stat i mentioned-b 1/4 of the food we bring home we don't use. so with that in mind let's just be a bit smarter in how we shop for our food. >> you know the irony here, we waste all this food and yet the u.s. still has this major obesity problem. are the two mutually exclusive? >> well, the link there is that our food system is broken. to have so much hunger, so much obesity, and then be wasting about 40% of our food, it shows that there's a major disconnect. we aren't connected to where our food comes, from and we just blindly trusted food companies, and that's got us into trouble. but the real common link between waste and obesity is in the portion sizes that many of us see at restaurants, and even it's trickling into our own homes. the idea of what a sensible amount of food to serve people is. and so we overserve our friends and family and we certainly get overserved at restaurants.
and as a result we are wasting and getting obese. >> is that a uniquely american problem, the portion control size? >> unfortunately, we have created these massive portions, but we're kind of exporting the idea to other developed nations. the rest of the world is catching up with us in terms of the amount of food they are wasting. but there is a large difvide whn you look at the amount of food in the developing world versus developed. there's this question of loss versus waste. but we in america unfortunately are leading the way, so to speak, in wasting food. >> not in a good way. we don't want to be leading that way. jonathan bloom, author of "american wasteland," thank you very much for joining us. >> thanks for having me. straight ahead, the big three on colin powell's surprising comments about racial intolerance in the republican party. you're watching "weekends with alex witt." [ man ] visa prepaid opened a new world for me.
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it's time for the big three. and today's topics, gop and race, the wrong fights, and this week's must-reads. let's bring in the big three panel. nia malika henderson. republican strategist joe watkins. and president of hataway communications and former senior adviser to the hillary clinton and al gore presidential campaigns, doug hataway. hello to the three of wayou. joe, we had secretary of state colin powell on "meet the press" who gave his assessment of the current state of the republican party and race. let's all take a listen to this. >> there's also a dark -- a dark vein of intolerance in some parts of the party. what do i mean by that? what i mean by that is they still sort of look down on minorities. how can i evidence that? when i see a former governor say that the president is shucking and jiving.
that's a racial-era slave term. when i see another former governor after the president's first debate where he didn't do very well says that the president was lazy. he didn't say he was slow, he was tired, he didn't do well. he said he was lazy. now, it may not mean anything to most americans. but to those of us who are african-americans, the second word is shiftless, and then there's a third word that goes along with it. birther. the whole birther movement. why do senior republican leaders tolerate this kind of discussion within the party? i think the party has to take a look at itself. >> so what's your reaction to that, joe? >> my reaction is that general powell is absolutely right. he's right on target. the republican party has to be very, very thoughtful, especially if it wants to be a winning party in the next presidential cycle, to not talk about the sitting president of the united states in terms that are anything less than respectful. even if you disagree with the president on policy matters, to talk about him in dismissive
terms or in anything that might sound demeaning is not acceptable and not smart. the party has to be more open to people -- you can have an opinion about something. you can have a belief system as i do -- i'm a pastor of a church. i have a strong belief system. and at the same time not be intolerant of people who don't see it the way you do. the only way the republican party wins in 2016 is to include latinos and african-americans and women in much larger numbers than they currently have. >> but joe, there are these elements in the party. how do you explain that? >> well, i think that the result of the last election has done a great deal to open the eyes of anybody whose eyes may still be closed about what happens if you don't include more than just what republicans have right now as part of the party base. you've got to include people who aren't presently part of the base. there were so many people who may voted for president obama in the last cycle who may not have
been happy with everything that he did but the republicans did not give other people a reason, enough of a reason, those groups, be it women or latinos or african-americans, aw reason to vote for their candidate. and that's got to change. so the language has to change. the level of tolerance to people who don't see things the way maybe you do or i do has to change. certainly you have to include people who don't look like us. >> but nia-malika, isn't it even more about including in the party, it's about reflecting social and cultural acceptance. >> that's right. if you look at this congress, it's the most diverse congress in history and reflects where this country is. increasingly diverse. increasingly this congress representative of these diverse voices. whether it be asians, african-americans, women, gay people. and so that's where the republican party needs to go. what makes i think colin powell's comment so effective is he doesn't often speak about race. in 2008 he did endorse president obama and he dressed at that
point what were these rumors about then candidate obama's faith. these rumors that he was muslim. and he in a very powerful statement, he said he isn't muslim, he's in fact a christian, but what if he were? it wouldn't matter. we're a pluralistic society that believes in tolerance. and i think that's why it was so effective, those comments that he made this morning. i think they're going to reverberate in the party. and you do have in the republican party people having these conversations already. they very much looked at this last election and see it as a referendum on their party and this underpinning issue around diversity and expanding the party. >> you're a democrat, doug. i want you to weigh in on these comments from that perspective. whether there's a political calculation or just an asse assessme assessment. >> well, political calculation or -- i agree with everything that's been said but let's be clear this isn't just some isolated element within the party.
this has been part of their political strategy to build a base largely among conservative whites in this country with a political of division, in groups and out groups. it goes beyond race. whether it's looking down on people who are different in whatever way, gays or recent immigrants or whatever it is. that's been how -- that's how they've done business. and that's the politics of the past. americans are over it. most of them. and i agree that this is really a time to, whether it's political calculation or really just taking a fundamental look at what do you really believe here, that this country should be like. it's critical to whether they're just going to become relegated to a fringe element and be left behind or really be a legitimate force in american politics moving forward. it's a huge issue for them. >> bottom line, joe, do you think the gop has learned a lesson from this last election that will prevent extremists on the right from holding the rest of the gop party hostage? >> well, clearly, this makes two elections, two presidential elections in a row that republicans have not won and
have not won significantly. and if that -- if the republicans want to change that, if in 2016 republicans want to have a chance to win the white house and have a majority in the senate as well as in the house, they're going to have to do some things differently. so i think they've heard, whether or not the party learns will be seen by how we perform in the next four years. >> all right, guys, we're going to switch gears and talk about debt ceiling. oh, joy. nia-malika, let's talk about how the president is framing the debt ceiling debate. >> one thing i will not compromise over is whether or not congress should pay the tab for a bill they've already racked up. if congress refuses to give the united states the ability to pay its bills on time, the consequences for the entire global economy could be catastrophic. >> okay. so republicans say they want spending cuts. and some are even suggesting that partial government shutdown tactic, that's what's going to be necessary here. there are also some in the gop who are just not happy about all the pork being put into things like the sandy relief bill. that unof course set to go to the house floor on tuesday.
nia-malika, do the republicans risk the -- run the risk, rather, of being viewed as completely obstructionist? are they picking the wrong fights? i mean, let's take let's take sandy for example. >> they certainly got a lot of blowback from new yorkers and folks in new jersey around their standing in the way of that sandy relief bill. they ended up passing it in bits and pieces and they will look to do that next week. they do run the risk of being a party that just says no. there is discussion within the republican party about where they want to go. they talk about being a party of ideas. if that is the way the party wants to go, if it comes to spending cuts and that is where they want the discussion to be they have to be more specific about what types of spending cuts they want to make. is it to social security or medicare? they have to make an argument rather than saying no. their approval rating is pretty
low. a gallo gallop poll showed moree identified themselves as democrats instead of republicans. >> what do republicans have to use in these fights? >> you have a majority, of course, in the house. we do not have a majority of votes in the senate. there will be challenges there. i think she makes a great point which is it is how you are seen. republicans have to be careful they are not being viewed as the party of no. republicans do want to talkt about getting spending under control and the discussion about how they do that will be important going forward. >> democrats and leverage, what do they have? >> i think they have the upper hand politicly. people are really seeing the congressional republicans as the standing in the way of any sort of compromise for the good of the country here and the president has the message right.
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let's go back to the big three for this week's must reads. what's yours? >> we have a great piece in the washington post about the evolution of the nra from a small group to what is now one of the most powerful lobbiest organizations on the hill. what this piece details is the history of the nra, the pivotal role they played in the 2000 campaign denying al gore of this and suggests the nra is strengthened when they are under pressure. you have seen they have apparently expanded their membership. so this is going to be a real
fight on this debate around gun control and this idea that somehow obama might be able to make a run around the nra as he pushes for increased gun legislation. this makes it look like it is going to be really hard to do. >> i think, doug, in the category of great minds thinking alike, didn't you pick the same one for the same reasons? anything to add to that? >> a double must read. when i was a kid going to camp the nra gave you your little prize for being a safe shooter. now it is a rich, powerful lobby. it is interesting to look at how the use of extremism or lack of compromise really dialing up controversy as a tactic for creating a really powerful constituency. >> we are going to throw that up there. we had a long chat about powell
and his comments today. joe, we always love your input. we are going to wrap it up right now. i want to thank all three of you. i'm alex witt. we'll see you from d.c. next weekend. hysema. hysema. spiriva helps control my copd symptoms by keeping my airways open for 24 hours. plus, it reduces copd flare-ups. spiriva is the only once-daily inhaled copd maintenance treatment that does both. spiriva handihaler tiotropium bromide inhalation powder does not replace fast-acting inhalers for sudden symptoms. tell your doctor if you have kidney problems, glaucoma, trouble urinating, or an enlarged prostate. these may worsen with spiriva. discuss all medicines you take, even eye drops. stop taking spiriva and seek immediate medical help if your breathing suddenly worsens, your throat or tongue swells, you get hives, vision changes or eye pain, or problems passing urine. other side effects include dry mouth and constipation.
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